Drum roll please …. And now some more. A little more. OK.
Mike Iaconelli is returning to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
On a special edition of Ike Live called “The Decision: 2022,” the 49-year-old pro from Pittsgrove, N.J., announced that he will accept the Elite invitation and return to B.A.S.S. Iaconelli re-qualified by finishing second in the 2021 Basspro.com Northern Opens point standings.
“This was very thought-out, from the moment I qualified for both tours,” said Iaconelli, noting considerations of his businesses and TV shows. “COVID and the break that it offered me was a breath of fresh air. It was a step back. Can we successfully work for sponsors and spread the word and get more people to fish without tournament fishing? You don’t have to fish a major tour.”
With that statement, viewers worried that Iaconelli might pass.
“We mulled it over for a long time,” he continued. “This weekend at Gettsyburg, we laid it all out and there were more things pointing in this one direction. Here’s the big reason -- I’m not ready to retire. I want to retire on my own terms. I got more trophies to win. I think that tournament fishing at tour level again for a few more years will really help a lot of the other businesses.
“Our decision for 2022 is that we will be fishing a full tour … and the decision is, say it together, we’re going to be fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series. I want to finish where I started. That feels right to me.”
Iaconelli, who left to fish MLF in 2019, has a long and successful history with B.A.S.S., including winning the 2003 Classic and 2006 Angler of the Year. Ike has eight Bassmaster victories to tie for ninth all-time, and he has $2.6 million in B.A.S.S. earnings. He had qualified for 18 consecutive Classics before leaving.
Ike won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta, where he shouted the famed line “Never give up” after catching the winning fish late in the day. Iaconelli’s tournament titles include the 1999 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, a Top 150, a Bassmaster Tour, two Elites, two Opens, a postseason Elite win and on the new B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series last August.
There were a number of factors he considered in his return, namely family, business and fans. The date that he had to inform B.A.S.S. if he would accept was Nov. 9, so he took it down to the wire.
Ike first had to re-qualify for the Elites. He entered all three tournaments in the Northern Division eying a possible return. He started by finishing 17th at the James River, where he won the 2019 Open. He followed with a fourth at Oneida Lake then took 33rd at the St. Lawrence River to finish in a three-way tie in point standings with Jonathan Kelley and Alex Redwine, taking second on a tiebreaker.
During his show, Ike offered tribute to legendary angler Aaron Martens, who succumbed to brain cancer last week. The Ike Live team put together a montage of Martens photos through the years.
“Aaron was, if not the best, one of the best fisherman. He was so impactful not only to the fishing industry, but to people,” Iaconelli said. “Of all the people fishing … Aaron was one of the good ones. He was a genuinely good soul, to the core. One of the best.”
There was certainly build-up to Ike’s announcement, including a social media post where he queried fans as to what he should do. He said he loosely tallied the results and found that 70 percent of fans thought he should make a return to the Elites.
There was build-up on the show as well, with his wife, Becky, conducting an impromptu poll on how long it would take for Mike to announce. The over/under of time for him to explain and make his announcement, starting a segment two hours into the show, was 27 minutes. He made it just under at 23 minutes.
Check out Iaconelli’s Man-Cave.